Texas Today

Texas on Screen: Where Legends Are Made (and Broken)

woman taking a picture
Photo credit: Unsplash.com


When you think “Texas,” what images flash across your mind? Wide-open landscapes and ten-gallon hats? Fiercely independent characters with a hint of swagger? Maybe a tumbleweed blowing down a dusty Main Street as Ennio Morricone’s music twangs in the background? Texas has a larger-than-life persona, and much of that image has been shaped by how it’s portrayed in movies and TV. Let’s take a ride through the cinematic landscapes of Texas and see how these portrayals reflect, exaggerate, and sometimes even challenge our perceptions of the state.

Classic Westerns like “Giant” or “The Searchers” painted Texas as the ultimate frontier. It was a land of rugged landscapes, cowboys with steely determination, and battles between good and evil played out against a backdrop of endless sky. These films cemented the image of the stoic Texas hero – a little rough around the edges, maybe, but with an unwavering moral compass. They also played up the state’s history, with the Alamo becoming a symbol of Texan grit and pride.

“Westerns created this enduring mythology around Texas,” notes a film historian. “It’s the land of opportunity, but also danger. A place where you can forge your own path, but you better be tough enough to survive.”

Small-Town Texas: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Shows like “Friday Night Lights” give us a very different view of the Lone Star State. Here, the drama unfolds on football fields and in small-town diners. It’s a world of homecoming parades, gossip-fueled coffee shops, and the unbreakable bonds of community. These shows portray Texas as a place where dreams can be just as big as the sky, even if the setting is less mythic.

This version of Texas is comforting in its familiarity. We see the struggles and triumphs of everyday folks, and the portrayal often taps into a longing for a simpler, more close-knit way of life. Of course, anyone who’s lived in a small town knows there’s drama lurking beneath that friendly surface, but that just adds a bit of spice to the image.

Films like “No Country for Old Men” or shows like “Dallas” (both the classic and the reboot) offer a grittier, more complex look at Texas. Sure, the iconic imagery is still there – big skies, cowboy boots, and the occasional oil derrick – but these stories add a healthy dose of darkness and moral ambiguity. The new Texas heroes might still be tough as nails, but their battles are against greed, corruption, and the harsh realities of a changing world.

“The Texas portrayed in modern dramas is more of a reflection of broader anxieties,” says a pop culture writer. “It’s not just about good versus evil; it’s about flawed characters wrestling with big economic and social issues.”

Interestingly, when Texas filmmakers tell their own stories, a different layer emerges. Movies like “Selena” or recent shows like “Reservation Dogs” (which partially takes place in Oklahoma but has a similar borderlands sensibility) showcase diverse experiences and challenge monolithic views of the state. They delve into the vibrant Tejano culture, the experiences of Native American communities, and the everyday lives of people often overlooked in mainstream portrayals.

Does the Image Fit the Reality?

Like any cinematic representation, the Texas we see on screen is an amplified version of the truth. Yes, there are cowboys, wide-open spaces, and a fierce independent streak running through the state. But there’s also a booming tech scene in Austin, a thriving arts community in Houston, and a level of diversity that defies the old stereotypes.

The power of these portrayals, both classic and modern, is that they seep into our collective consciousness. They become a kind of shorthand, a way we imagine a place even if we’ve never been there ourselves. And that’s why it’s so important to have a variety of Texas stories on screen – it helps chip away at outdated ideas, celebrate the state’s complexities, and ultimately reminds us that Texas, like any place, is far more than a single image can contain.

Share this article

Deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, with the spirit that makes us proud.